Despite outcry, city moves forward with debt-funded plan

The City Council narrowly approved a controversial bond-funded plan Wednesday that would put nearly $1.8 million toward small-scale capital projects.

“We’re all taxpayers and wish the city could meet its obligations without going into debt,” said Councilman Barry Peters. “Projects like the famous bathroom are now virtually done and we have to pay for it,” he said, noting that the long delayed Waterfront Park restroom is, after almost eight years, finally set for completion in the coming months.

Road repairs, bicycle lanes and city dock upgrades were also included in the bond-funded plan.

While using bonds to fund capital projects is common, critics argued that most of the plan’s elements were for small items that could have been paid for out of the general fund or deferred to a later time when the city wasn’t facing a $2.5 million revenue shortfall.

One resident said the council was breaking the trust the public puts in the council to spend money wisely.

“If you lose our trust we won’t give you our money anymore,” she said.

Former councilman Bob Scales renewed his calls to halt debt financing.

“The city’s acting like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” he said, referring to two ailing mortgage finance companies. “The difference is the federal government is not going to bail the city out.”

The council had budgeted money for many of the plan’s projects but earlier this year shifted the funds to pay for soccer fields, new police cars and other items.

The three council members who opposed the plan on Wednesday said public input swayed their votes.

“Since we last discussed this, I’ve been doing a lot of listening,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil, who late last month added $250,000 to the plan to pay for senior center improvements. “The collective wisdom of the community has never failed to give me a broader perspective.”

Vancil joined council members Bill Knobloch and Kim Brackett in voting against the plan.

“I have not received one phone call or had one person jump at me at the Town & Country while I’m trying to buy some fruit and say ‘please vote for this bond,’” Knobloch said. “People are scared” of debt-funded projects.

But the public does want the projects the plan funds, said Councilwoman Hilary Franz.

“They say ‘I take bike rides to Blakely (Elementary), don’t kill that (bike lane) project,” she said. “They say ‘Get the Waterfront Park bathroom finished.’ How many times have we been told that?”

One thought on “Despite outcry, city moves forward with debt-funded plan

  1. Very, very disappointed in this whole situation. I watched the council meeting and it seemed to me that the council believed that they “had” to pass the bond. That they were “forced” to do so. In reality, it was of their own making. By moving projects and bills due around without making corresponding cuts to pay for it, what did they expect to do except use the city credit card? Ms. Franz doesn’t seem to get it- of course you are going to have non-stop special interest groups pounding at the government door for funding their projects. That does not make these interest groups representative of the “public”. Stop thinking that the whining, teary-eyed, hands-out speakers that attend the council meetings are representative of the public at large. After adding another ¼ million dollars last month to the pile, Ms. Vancil has the gall to now suddenly be against the bond? She is just as much part of the problem as most of the others, she just likes to make political maneuvers over it all. Whatever happened to the public voting on that ¼ million dollar funding?

    I can tell you why there has not been any public vote for this city’s funding. It’s because it would never pass. I will not vote for any tax increase or bond issues until the city learns how to handle the money. Stop building stuff for a while, stop increasing the debt load, just please stop it! We are now going to be paying for twenty years for small projects that should have been funded out of the annual budget. Dig yourself out of a hole by not taking on anything for a while. Like a family budget, you save until you can afford it. You start paying for the groceries every week with a credit card and it doesn’t take long to end up where the city is now.

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